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Nat Clin Pract Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Aug;5(8):430-43. doi: 10.1038/ncpgasthep1197.

The spectrum and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders during pregnancy.

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Gastrointestinal Laboratory, Department of Internal Medicine, Israelitic Hospital, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.


Gastrointestinal symptoms are extremely common during pregnancy. Increased levels of female sex hormones cause or contribute to symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, vomiting and constipation. If these symptoms do not respond adequately to lifestyle and dietary changes, drug therapy is often warranted to improve quality of life and to prevent complications. Physicians, therefore, need to be familiar with the low-risk treatment options available. Treatment of chronic conditions such as IBD or chronic liver disease during pregnancy can be demanding. In women with IBD, maintenance of adequate disease control during pregnancy is crucial. Most IBD drugs can be used during pregnancy, but the benefits and risks of specific drugs should be discussed with the patient. Liver diseases can be coincidental or pregnancy-specific. Pregnancy-specific liver diseases include not only benign disorders such as intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, but also pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and HELLP syndrome (hemolytic anemia, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count). Accordingly, the spectrum of therapeutic measures ranges from expectant management to urgent induction of delivery. During pregnancy, lamuvidine therapy for chronic hepatitis B can be continued; however, interferon and ribavirin therapy for chronic hepatitis C is contraindicated. This Review provides an overview of the spectrum and therapy of motility disturbances that occur during pregnancy, and discusses pregnancy-specific aspects of IBD and liver diseases.

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